The Secret to Success

Contrary to popular belief, the secret to getting a golf ball to fly farther is not using a better club, hitting it harder, or even cursing (I’ve tried all three). A golf ball’s distance of flight is tied directly to the dimples on the ball. I had always assumed that the dimples were for decoration, but I discovered recently that they are purposely crafted to allow the ball lift and better aerodynamic performance.  A smooth golf ball hit by a professional golfer would travel only about half as far as one with dimples, according to Scientific American. The average golf ball has anywhere from 300-500 dimples to help it achieve the desired results. So, the secret to success is not a perfect sphere, but rather the imperfections that help it ride the wind.

Just as the dimples in the golf ball help it fly farther, so do our imperfections and flaws help us soar higher. It’s through our mistakes, our failures, and our losses that we gain perspective, humility, and sense of resiliency that helps us succeed and overcome obstacles. It’s the well worn and dimpled golf ball, not the perfect sphere that travels the farthest.

As educators, we can share this example with our students when they think they aren’t perfect enough or are discouraged by their “dimples”. It’s the ability to use our imperfections to help us ride the wind and travel farther than we ever thought we could. Smooth, perfect and unblemished may look good, but it’s the dents and dimples that make the magic happen!




“I know I’m getting better at golf, because I am hitting fewer spectators.” – Gerald R. Ford

“Golf is a game in which you yell ‘fore,’ shoot six, and write down five.” – Paul Harvey

“I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game. It’s called an eraser.” – Arnold Palmer



  • Monday, September 23 – Friday, September 27: Scholastic Book Fair
  • Monday, September 23: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, ELA Performance Task Window Opens
  • Tuesday, September 24: Achievement Team (Gruenewald) 8:15 AM, Literacy Night 6:00-8:00 PM
  • Wednesday, September 25: Lock Down Drill 9:30 AM, Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 26: No Staff Meeting Jon at MEMSPA
  • Friday, September 27: F&P Testing Ends, Jon at MEMSPA


  • Monday, September 30: Student of the Month Assembly (Respect) 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, October 1: REED (Hochkins) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, October 2: All Administrative Meeting 3:00 PM
  • Thursday, October 3: Staff Meeting (Review Growth Plans & Focus Areas) 8:05 AM, Fire Drill 3:20 PM
  • Friday, October 4: FUN RUN K-2 in AM, 3/4 in PM, ELA Performance Task Window Closes


  • Monday, October 7: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, October 8: F&P/iReady/ELB due in Student Profile Document, PTA Skate Night 6:00-8:00 PM
  • Thursday, October 10: PLC 7:50-8:50 AM (Data Review- Looking at Performance Task Data), DATA DIVES (Rotating Subs), PTA 7:00 PM

End of the Road

It was my senior year of high school and I was getting ready to see the Rolling Stones. My friends and I listened to their music as we drove across Michigan to see the show. This was an important event. Not only were we seeing musical legends on stage, this might be the last time they toured.  After all, Mick Jagger was 47 and Keith Richards was 46. How much longer could they keep this up?

Paul McCartney, one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time, living legend, a Beatle, one of my musical heroes…and I was going to see him in concert while in college. I couldn’t contain my excitement seeing this giant of music on stage. All the while I was thinking, I’m so glad I got the chance to see him perform. He’s 51 years old now, this could be the end of the road for his touring days.

Flash forward nearly 30 years later and both the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney are still going strong. They play to sold out stadiums around the world and still put on a heck of show! The only thing that has changed is that I no longer think 47 (my current age) and 51 sound that old.  I laugh at my perspective of many things from high school and college now, especially what is considered old age.

As I enter my 25th year in education, I think back to my first years of teaching. My younger self would have thought that I’m getting near the end of the road.  Time to take things easy. The interesting thing is that I’m just as enthusiastic about being an educator as I was back then (maybe more so). In fact, I think all passionate educators keep renewing their love for this profession and students as they progress through the years. I often wonder if Mick and Paul knew back then that they were just starting the second half of their career. Sometimes when people think you’re at the end of the road, you can show them that you’re just getting started!



“I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction” on stage at 45.” – Mick Jagger in 1975

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” – Paul McCartney

“You’ve got the sun, you’ve got the moon, and you’ve got the Rolling Stones.” – Keith Richards


  • Monday, September 16: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, iReady Window closes at end of day, Self-Assessments due in Pivot
  • Tuesday, September 17: Achievement Team 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, September 18: Jon at Central Office for RCR Interviews 7:30 AM
  • Thursday, September 19: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, Tornado Drill 10:00 AM
  • Friday, September 20: Lifetouch Picture Day in the East Commons


  • Monday, September 23 – Friday, September 27: Scholastic Book Fair
  • Monday, September 23: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, September 24: Achievement Team 8:15 AM, Family Literacy Night 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday, September 25: Lock Down Drill 9:30 AM, Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 26: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, Jon at MEMSPA
  • Friday, September 27: F&P testing ends, Jon at MEMSPA

Happy Accidents

A couple of months ago, I started taking an oil painting class. The class is in the style of Bob Ross and the instructor is “Bob Ross Certified“. Yes, there is such a thing. I had grown up watching Bob Ross and always enjoyed his easy going and eccentric style. Taking a painting class was something that I had wanted to do for some time, but had always been intimidated by the idea.  I think mainly because my father was an artist, I shied away from picking up a paint brush. While taking the class, the instructor asked if I had pursued any other arts. When I told her that I played guitar and liked to sing, she said that she figured as much, since I had been humming to myself the entire class. After a couple of classes, I started seeing potential paintings everywhere. One night I told my wife that the sunset sky looked like a Bob Ross painting. With her quick dry wit, she responded with, “Ah yes, nature once again trying to imitate Bob Ross.

Each class lasts about five hours and starts with a blank canvas and ends with a finished picture that may or may not look like the instructor’s painting. That’s okay though, because she strongly emphasis taking artistic liberties and adding our own vision to the paintings. While the class is tiring, it is also invigorating. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment leaving with a finished painting that didn’t exist a few hours before. Perhaps my favorite part of the process is the Bob Ross philosophy that there are no mistakes, only happy accidents. I’ve made plenty of happy accidents with my paintings, but all were able to be corrected.  Sometimes by myself and sometimes with the help of the instructor. It’s something that resonates far beyond the palate and the canvas.

As educators, we get to experience a similar joy of starting with a blank canvas and walking away with a finished picture when we work with students each day. We start with a vision of where we are going and use the techniques we have learned along with our instincts and add color to children’s lives and help shape them into all they can be. Also, like Bob Ross, we learn that there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. The best educators correct as they go and don’t avoid mistakes, but learn from them and model that for their students. Like painting, the world of education can be intimidating. Don’t let that hold you back. Jump in and grab your brush and make this year your masterpiece!



from Bob Ross

“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” 

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it.”

“Let’s get crazy.” 



My first attempts at oil painting



  • Monday, September 9: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM (Kindness)
  • Tuesday, September 10: REED (Stromberg) 8:15 AM,  Health Care Plan Meeting (Gruenewald) 9:00 AM, REED (Pisko) 9:05 AM, 9:50 REED (Trantham), Fire Drill 1:30 PM
  • Wednesday, September 11: Parent Meeting (Wennstrom) 8:30 AM, Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 12: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM


  • Monday, September 16: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Self-Assessments Due in Pivot, iReady Testing Window Closes, F&P Testing begins
  • Tuesday, September 17: Achievement Team Meeting 8:15 AM
  • Thursday, September 19: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, Tornado Drill 10:00 AM
  • Friday, September 20: Lifetouch Picture Day in the East Commons


  • Monday, September 23 – Friday, September 27: Book Fair in the East Commons
  • Tuesday, September 24: Literacy Night 6:00 PM

Reflections on the MEMSPA Summer Leadership Institute

This year, our annual MEMSPA Summer Leadership Institute was held on beautiful Mackinac Island. Once again, I was fortunate to be able to bring my family and turn the conference into both a learning experience and a vacation. While I spent my days connecting with and learning from leaders across the state, my family hiked and biked around the island. Our evenings were spent together enjoying ice cream, fudge and ghost tours.

The conference kicked off with a keynote address from the inspirational Kristin Anderson and continued with a session on Social Emotional Learning from Dina Rocheleau. The first day ended with tips on how to retain and grow professional staff by Rebekah Emmerling from the Michigan Department of Education.

The learning continued the next day with a session on “Staff Meeting Upgrades” by Andy Fuehr. I was fortunate to be able to facilitate sessions on “Blogging for Educators” and “Toolkit for Early Career Principals“. The conference concluded with a call to “Uncommon Leadership” by my friend and mentor Dr. Debbie McFalone.

I’ve had people tell me I’m crazy for “giving up” my summer days to attend conferences. That might be true if this were strictly work. The truth is, the work we do is more than a profession, it’s a calling and the people that I’ve had the privilege to connect with in MEMSPA are more than colleagues, they are friends. Simon Sinek said that working hard for something we love is called passion. I’m fortunate to be able to do what I love with so many incredible friends and share the experience with my family.

Reflections on the Social Emotional Learning summit

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Social Emotional Learning Summit presented by Illinois ASCD & Mindful Practices, by the inspirational ed leader, Carla Tantillo Philibert. To use a phrase from MEMSPA executive director, Paul Liabenow, it was a blockbuster event! It kicked off with a keynote address from Phyllis Lockett focusing on shifting the educational system to address the individual needs of each student and develop skills and mindsets they will need for future jobs and opportunities that don’t yet exist. The day continued with breakout sessions on “Educating the Whole Child“, “Creating Empathetic Readers and Writers through powerful books in the Literacy Workshop” and “Remembering our Why through Relationships, Regulation, and Resilience“. The first day ended with a keynote from Greg Wolcott reminding us that “It takes two wings to soar” and that children need development of BOTH academic skills and social-emotional skills.

The second day started with a bang as the event organizer, Carla Tantillo Philibert gave a rousing keynote on reconnecting school stakeholders with their passion for education. The morning continued with the opportunity to give back to back presentations with my friend and MEMSPA colleague Mike Domagalski on supporting teachers “No TEACHER Left Behind” and on motivating teachers “Self-Awareness, Social Media & Beyond“. The learning continued with sessions on “Cultivating Strong Relationships with our Communities” and a closing keynote from Dr. Maurice Swinney on “The Necessary Tensions Between Race, Equity and SEL“.

My personal highlight of the summit went far beyond the learning and inspiring that came from the keynotes and the sessions. It came from the fact that my oldest daughter, Marina, not only attended the conference with me, but was given the opportunity to speak on a panel discussion called “Voices Across the Country“. When I mentioned to Carla that I was taking my daughter to Chicago with me for the conference, she immediately asked if she was willing to add her student voice to the conference and present on a panel giving the perspectives of a high school student. Marina accepted and with her usual confidence jumped right in and let her voice be heard on the panel with people from all over the nation. I couldn’t have been more proud!

I’ve attended and presented at numerous conferences and I’ve grown from each one of them. However, the growth from this conference was different. It was not just growth in my professional knowledge,  but growth in my relationship with my daughter and in my admiration for the young woman she has become. She inspires me to believe that as we in education work to provide a better world for our students, they are making a better world for us! 

IMG_2858 (2)

The adventures continue next week at the 2019 MEMSPA Summer Leadership Institute in Mackinac Island!


Stay Tuned!!!


Reflections on the National Association of Elementary School Principals conference

This month, the #CompelledBloggers are focused on the theme of bringing joy, happiness and FUN to the workplace. It couldn’t have been better timing as I just wrapped up my time at the #NAESP19 conference in Spokane, WA and boy did we have fun! Now, for me, having fun isn’t just socializing and connecting with friends old and new, it’s getting the chance to learn new things, hear new ideas, and be inspired by like-minded educators. During the three day conference, I had the chance to attend the following sessions:

Each of these sessions were inspiring and I came away with many ideas that I want to share at my school. However, this was just the beginning. The real magic came from talking and sharing with educators across the country and the synergy that happens when passionate educators connect.

I’ve always been a fan of the quote “A rising tide lifts all boats” and that was demonstrated so many times at this conference. One of the evenings, a group of educators called #PrinicpalsInAction decided to get a group picture on the giant sized Radio Flyer wagon. This group connects through Voxer and Twitter and many of the members, I had only connected with online before the conference. While on the wagon for the group picture, I asked the person next to me how long he had been with the group. He shyly said that he was walking by himself and someone had told him about the group picture. When he said he wasn’t in the group, he was told “You are now!“. Later, he came out to dinner with the group and by the end of the conference, he had found his stride. I found out later in the evening that the person who invited him was none other than Hamish Brewer. Hamish is a bit of a celebrity in the education world, but what made him a hero that night was making sure ALL people were included. He casually mentioned to me that he had seen someone “looking a little lost” and had invited him along. THAT’S what makes conferences like this so special and fun to me. The idea that we are all in this together and we are here for one another and ready to lift everyone with a rising tide!

How do I bring joy, happiness and fun to my school? By following the example of those inspiring educators I have been fortunate to connect with. I want to make sure every child, every teacher, every staff member, and every family member feels included, empowered, and part of our school community. We are better together! Thank you to the amazing leaders at #NAESP19 who reminded me of that.


The adventures continue this week at the 2019 SEL Conference in Chicago, IL! 


Stay Tuned!!!

The Mug

Two years ago, I had the privilege of coming to Buchanan Elementary. As a new administrator to the building and knowing that we were blending staff and students,  I had one primary goal…Build a unified school community.  In the past two years, we have celebrated the birth of children together, we have mourned the loss of loved ones, we have participated in weddings, and supported one another through struggles. We’ve laughed together, cried together, and dreamed together. In some ways, the two years have flown by and in other ways it feels like we’ve been together for much longer.

Recently, something happened in the staff lounge early one morning. One of our teachers dropped her favorite coffee mug. In a moment, the mug (along with the hope of a piping hot coffee) was shattered. However, the next day one of our teachers brought in an identical coffee mug for her colleague. Here’s what made that act so special to me. The two teachers aren’t grade level partners. They are not even close friends. It was simply an act of kindness between two professionals and two kind human beings. When I heard about this event, I was taken aback. It summed up in one simple gesture, what I have been hoping for our team these past two years.  Coming together as a caring and supportive community.

As we draw to a close of another school year, I see the connections people have made with one another and the support that is given both in the school setting and in a personal setting. Do we still have disagreements? Yes. Do we still have times of short tempers and frustration? Of course. Do we still have room to grow and learn together? You bet. But, can’t that be said of every family?



“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” – Richard Bach

“You can never go wrong when you have a great team to work with.” – Kubra Sait

“Without a sense of caring, there can be be no sense of community.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

Books worth Reading

Jimmy Casas


download (1)

Blank Pages

Last summer, I was in a comic shop to pick up my new arrivals to add to my Superman collection. While I was there, the owner asked if I wanted a copy of one of the blank Superman comics on sale that month. They were designed for children to draw their own comic art in. At first, I declined the offer and was ready to make my purchase, but then I thought it would be a nice addition to my office collection and provide an opportunity for students to doodle while they were in my office.  I purchased the blank comic and brought it to school.

Once the school year began, I decided to invite one student from each classroom to draw a picture for the book. An artist corner was created in the office with coloring materials and Superman artifacts to inspire the imagination. When students arrived to create their art, they were given two simple parameters. They could draw anything they wished as long as it pertained to Superman and they had to fill in the entire page with color. Students were called into the office each week to add their contribution to the book.

From the first student who came to my office to the last, I was amazed at the vivid imagination that was displayed on the pages of the book. Some drew a classic pose of the Man of Steel, some drew Supergirl and other comic characters, and some drew themselves as superheroes. My favorite part of the project was taking the picture of the students with their finished artwork as they beamed with pride. As the pages began to fill up, I realized what a special project this had become and that it was destined to be a keepsake to remember this year at Buchanan. I hope this book will be something our current students will look back on with fondness and something that will inspire our future students as well!



“For me, the blank page to draw on is a window to adventure.” – Eduardo Risso

“Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage.” – Julia Cameron

“I enjoy the freedom of a blank page.” – Irvine Welsh



Melissa Haapala                                        Syndie Canterberry


  • Monday, June 10: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, 4th Grade Celebration at Rec Center
  • Tuesday, June 11: Kindergarten Concert (Outside) 1:30 PM
  • Wednesday, June 12: Field Day, Student Reports sent home (IRIPS, Reading Proficiency Reports & Math iReady Parent Reports)
  • Thursday, June 13: Students Dismissed at 12:10 PM, Lunch provided by the Social Committee in the lounge
  • Friday, June 14: Island Drum Assembly 10:00 AM, 4th Grade Clap Out 11:30 AM, Students Dismissed at 12:10 PM
  • Monday, June 17: Optional Teacher Work Day

We Are The Warriors

“You can’t change what you really are….you and me, we don’t even have a choice….We have to be right in the middle of the action, because we’re the warriors.” With these words, Apollo Creed convinces his friend Rocky Balboa that he needs to support him in one last fight. Now, while this speech is intended to describe the nature of a boxer, it could easily be used to describe the nature of an educator.

Teachers have a heart of giving, they are always in the middle of the action, and they fight for their students each and every day. Now, while I don’t believe that great educators are born, but are created through hard work and training, I DO believe that they are born with a warrior’s instinct…an instinct to never give up.

One of the biggest compliments I believe someone can get is to be told they have the heart of an educator. For me that means a rare combination of love and toughness, patience and determination, optimism and realism. Like Rocky and Apollo…we are the warriors!

Rocky vs Apollo Painting by Leroy Neiman; Rocky vs Apollo Art Print for sale


“If you’re a true warrior, competition doesn’t scare you. It makes you better.” – Andrew Witworth

“Any great warrior is also a scholar, and a poet, and an artist.” – Steven Seagal

“I’m a warrior for light.” – Thomas Kinkade




Amanda Williams                                   Lisa Pisko



  • Monday, June 3: Students of the Month Assembly 9:05 AM, IEP (Stromberg) 2:15 PM, F&P Data in Illuminate
  • Tuesday, June 4: Kindergarten Round Up
  • Wednesday, June 5: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, June 6: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, Garden Day (during your designated time), PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, June 7: Service Safety Squad Color Run 2:30 PM in Garden Area, IRIPS sent home with students
  • Saturday, June 8: 2nd Annual Buchanan Karaoke Night!! 9:00-???
  • Sunday, June 9: PTA Tiger’s Game


  • Monday, June 10: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, 4th Grade to Rec Center
  • Tuesday, June 11: Kindergarten Concert 1:15 PM (Outside)
  • Wednesday, June 12: Field Day
  • Thursday, June 13: Students Dismissed 12:10 PM
  • Friday, June 14: Island Drum Assembly 10:00 AM, 4th Grade Clap Out 11:30 AM, Students dismissed at 12:10 PM

Critics Make Us Stronger

Recently, I was watching a documentary about the controversial Swiss author, Erich von Daniken, who wrote the best selling book Chariots of the Gods. In his 1968 book, von Daniken asked the question, was the earth visited in the past by extra-terrestrials? His provocative ideas have become known as Ancient Astronaut Theory and is now a world wide phenomenon with conventions, an entire genre of books and films, and the impetus for the History Channel’s top rated show “Ancient Aliens“. Although the concept is far from revolutionary now, when the book came out 50 years ago, it was attacked on every front from the scientific community, and so was its author. What surprised me about the special, was that von Daniken welcomed his critics and even went on to say that they helped make his case stronger.

In a world of attacks and counter attacks and never admitting one is wrong or giving an inch, it was refreshing to hear someone say, “Sometimes I was wrong“. Erich von Daniken shares an example of an “ancient pole” that he found in India. The local people told him it had been there for centuries and had never shown a sign of rust. Intrigued, he included it in his book as an example of possible alien technology. Not long after, von Daniken noted that “the damn thing started rusting!“. It was a learning experience for him and he also noted that several other of ideas did not hold up. However, his book was not intended to give answers, but to pose questions, explore new ideas and possibilities, and to question the status quo. He often refers to the fact that his book has over 200 question marks in it. He wasn’t claiming to be the expert, but he was questioning the experts. His openness to critics is something that actually allowed dialogue and the discussion of new ideas and not “camp mentality”. When laughed at, von Daniken would often refer to the German philosopher, Schopenhauer, who said there are three stages for any new idea. In the fist stage everybody laughs at it. In the second stage, nobody wants to talk about it. In the final stage, everybody says, “Oh, we always thought that!“.

As educators, we can learn from Erich von Daniken. We can explore new and original ideas even if they go against the status quo. We can ask provocative questions of ourselves and others. We can embrace our critics as those who help us refine our ideas and practices and can even help make us stronger. In an age where it’s heresy to admit a mistake or show weakness, it’s the truly confident and wise person who can be receptive to new ideas, reflection, and even criticism. Our profession and our students deserve educators who are willing to question ideas and have their ideas questioned. In the end, it makes us all stronger and better!



“The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas.” – Edward de Bono

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage

“I’m fascinated by the truth – all the different versions of it.” – Martin Henderson


Click this link to listen to “Educate The Heart” podcast



Sue Stromberg                                        Donna Ringler


  • Tuesday, May 28: Final Achievement Team Meeting (Jones) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, May 29: New Furniture Delivery, Final Fire Drill 1:30 PM
  • Thursday, May 30: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, SHS Clap Out 11:00 AM
  • Friday, May 31: Spring Fling! 5:30-8:30 PM


  • Monday, June 3: Students of the Month Assembly 9:05 AM, F&P Data due in Illuminate
  • Tuesday, June 4: Kindergarten Round Up
  • Thursday, June 6: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, Final PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, June 7: IRIPs Sent Home (more info to come), Service Squad Celebration


  • Monday, June 10: Final Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, 4th Grade Celebration at the Rec Center
  • Tuesday, June 11: Kindergarten Outdoor Concert 1:30 PM
  • Wednesday, June 12: Field Day!
  • Thursday, June 13: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM
  • Friday, June 14: Island Drums Assembly 10:00-11:00 AM, 4th Grade Clap Out at 11:30 AM, Students dismissed at 12:10 PM